A direct payment is money paid by the council, to help buy the support it has assessed a person as needing. Direct payments help people organise and buy their own care, instead of the council providing it. This is set out in the Care Act.
This quick read chapter provides key information about direct payments.
- What is a direct payment?
- How much money can people get?
- Who can have a direct payment?
- Why have a direct payment?
- How are direct payments paid?
- What can direct payments be used for?
A direct payment is money paid by the council, to help buy the support it has assessed a person as needing.
It is a way for a person to use all or part of their personal budget (see Personal Budget chapter). The person will receive money directly from the council so that they can arrange their own care, rather than having it arranged for them by the council.
Direct payments are not counted as income and do not effect tax or welfare benefits.
Different people will get different amounts of money depending how much money they have and what services the council has agreed they need (see Assessment chapter).
The council works out the amount of the direct payment based on the personal budget that has been agreed in the person’s care and support plan.
The amount of money should be enough to meet their needs and will take into account whether the person has to pay any money themselves.
To get a direct payment, the person must have been assessed by the council as being eligible to receive services (see Eligibility chapter). They must also be:
- over the age of 16;
- a carer; or
- the parent of a disabled child.
They must also be:
- able to arrange and manage their own care; and
- able and willing to agree to a direct payment and manage the payment.
They can get support to do this if they need it.
Although most people will be given a direct payment if they ask for one, there are some people who cannot get a direct payment, for example those under various court orders or treatments for using drugs or alcohol.
A direct payment can be requested at any time.
Direct payments give people more freedom and flexibility. Instead of having services organised by the council, with a direct payment people can arrange the support and care that works best for them. It allows them to:
- be more independent;
- have more control in their life;
- make their own decisions;
- choose who helps them manage their money and;
- decide who gives them the support that they need.
Direct payments give a person control over their care and this means that if they are not happy with the services they are getting, they can decide to change them without the council getting involved.
However, the person has to be able to show how the money is spent, to make sure it is being used in the way agreed in the care and support plan, by keeping records and receipts
The money is usually paid every four weeks into the person’s bank or building society account. It has to be kept separate from their private money. It can be paid into another person’s or organisation’s account, if the council has agreed to this.
Some councils use different types of payment, such as pre-paid cards.
Direct payments can be used in creative, flexible ways, as long the needs and outcomes agreed in the person’s care and support plan are met.
- employing a personal assistant to help with daily household tasks or personal care – at times that best suit the person and their daily routine;
- buying services from a private care provider that the person chooses;
- helping someone to stay in touch with friends and family or make new social contacts;
- paying toward leisure, education or social activities;
- buying support to give unpaid family carers a break.
There are some things that it can’t be spent on, including:
- permanent residential or nursing care;
- any services or goods that haven’t been agreed with the council in the care and support plan;
- employing a close relative who lives with the person;
- support provided by the council; and
- household bills, clothes, food and housing.